A Conversation About American Rock Part 1: Has The Influence of Rock Died?


Old Man: I’ve been giving a lot of thought to your theory about American rock music no longer existing as an important cultural touchpoint. Meaning new rock bands don’t get enough radio or TV time to be culturally important. One only needs to look at this year’s Grammy’s Best Rock Album nominees to realize you’re right. The Black Pumas, a great band but not a rock band, were nominated alongside AC/DC, Chris Cornel, Paul McCartney, and the Foo Fighters. The average age of any lead singer not in the Black Pumas was 66 years old. New rock just isn’t getting attention in the cultural consciousness.


So, I’d like us to discuss American rock bands that we’d like people to hear. But before you share your first band and why you think people should give them a listen, please give a little insight into your theory about the state of American rock music.


Dane: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts. I'm excited to share some of my favorite American rock artists and also explain in a little more detail about my theory about rock music and why its musicians are no longer rock stars.


These thoughts started forming after studying the cyclical nature of different genres of western music. What can be seen, going back to the year 1100, is that each dominant musical genre is more transient from the one that preceded it. If we only observe 20th century music, we can see the fall of classical music, the rise and fall of early country music, jazz, soul, rock and roll, and finally the rise of hip-hop. It does get exceedingly difficult in the mid-sixties to keep the genres from blurring, but we can say that various forms of rock music was the dominant American genre from the mid-fifties to the early/mid-2000's. All genres rise and fall, rock and roll is no exception.


The next conversation that furthered this theory of me was discussing the greatest rock stars of all time. Without having a complete understanding of what it meant to be a rock star, my conversation stalled out around the late nineties. The most important piece here is how do we, as a society, gauge if someone is a rock star or not? I took it upon myself to create a very hastily thrown together checklist of attributes that propel an artist or band into rock stardom. In no specific order that criteria is album sales, youth and counter culture influence, and the music Influence on fashion/art.


It's impossible to compare artists of different genres in regards to album sales, this category is a catch all for album sales, streams, radio play, downloads etc... It is a gauge of how often the artist's music is consumed, regardless of the medium. Rock no longer competes with Hip-Hop and EDM in regards to music consumption.


The second (and in my mind most important) element to being a rock star is youth and counter culture appeal. I've always thought that the golden question to know if a band is counter culture is, "Would mom and dad hate this?". Counter culture is supposed to challenge the status quo. Rock doesn't do that anymore (probably because we've have a few generations of rock fans who have become parents). Now, rock is played in many households from birth, it has turned into a part of American culture, the very thing it originally rebelled against.


Finally, influence on culture/art. I think the last big cultural rock genre was pop-punk, which I think barely meets the criteria for "counter culture", but we'll count it anyway. Since the early 2000's no band or subgenre of rock music has influenced the way that the youth dresses. Grunge music saw counter culture youths in ripped jeans and flannel shirts, pop-punk in skate shoes, spiked hair and loud colored t-shirts. Since the mid 2000's the youths have gravitated towards Hip-Hops fashion appeal.


Right as rock music was emulsifying into conventional American society, children looked for something more rebellious and angry to associate with. Nineties gangsta rap stars like Tupac, Dre, Snoop and Dre were ready to fill that void. As we speak, rap is reaching its breaking point as it blends more and more with pop music (Flo-rida, Ludacris, Drake). HipHop's fan base is beginning to have children and those children will help us find the next round of rebellious angry music.


Now, allow me to step off my podium and tell you about some of my favorite American Rock bands right now. I don't think any of them are going to bring the genre back to any cultural relevance, but they all write great songs and are a lot of fun! I'll start with my favorite artist of the last few years, and that is...


TO BE CONTINUED

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